Non-staining sunscreen and how to get sun cream stains out of clothes

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Sun protection is essential, but some sunscreen products leave unsightly yellow stains on clothes that don't come out in the wash. This shouldn’t put you off from using sun cream though.

In this article, learn about the non staining sunscreens to protect your new white sundress or swimsuit. Eucerin’s innovative new ‘Anti-Stain After Wash’* technology allows Eucerin sun protection products to protect your skin and help to look after your clothes too.

Why do some sunscreens stain clothes?

UV filters are slightly yellowish in colour
Chemical UV filters can leave yellowish marks on light-coloured clothing

To give our skin the protection it needs in the sun, sunscreens contain UV filters. These filters are normally organic chemical filters which, by the nature of the job they have to do of absorbing UV rays, have a slight yellowish colour. It is this colour which leads to the initial yellow sunscreen stains.

Also, some sun products cause stains if they're oil-based. This results in a stubborn mark that reacts with sun and water, and you might not notice it until you get home.

The higher the SPF we use, the more filters a product contains and so, generally, the stronger the stain. As we understand more about the impact of the sun on our skin, we are, sensibly, moving towards using higher sun protection factors than in the past. This means that sunscreen stains are becoming more noticeable, and more of a problem.

Light-coloured clothing, and clothing made from natural fibres like cotton, are most vulnerable to sunscreen stains. Darker-coloured fabrics are least likely to become noticeably stained.

What factors intensify sunscreen stains?

The initial sunscreen stain is only part of the story. The way we then go about trying to remove these stains can actually intensify them rather than lighten or remove them:

Powder detergents, bleaching agents, hot and hard water can all intensify sunscreen stains

  • The water we wash our clothes in contains metal ions such as iron and copper. These react with the filter stains on our clothes and can intensify those stains. There are more of these metal ions in hard water and so those washing clothes in hard water areas are more likely to experience sunscreen stains.
  • Hot water can actually seal in the yellow stains rather than remove them: the 40°C (104°F) setting recommended by most washing machine and laundry detergent manufacturers is hot enough to intensify sunscreen stains.
  • Powder detergents and bleaching agents can also react with the filters and increase rather than decrease the sunscreen stains.

How to remove yellow sunscreen stains from clothes

If you've noticed a greasy stain on your favourite summer outfit, don't panic. Try these methods to remove a yellow sunscreen stain:

  • Do a pre-treatment before washing. Rub a specific laundry detergent designed for stains into the mark and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing and washing.
  • After washing, hang your white clothing out in the sun to dry. The sun naturally bleaches stained white clothing in a safe way. For stubborn stains, use lemon juice to intensify the bleaching results.
  • Soak the stain in white vinegar. Follow this by washing on a hot temperature.
  • Use eucalyptus oil. Cover the stain and leave for five minutes before washing as normal.

If your sunscreen stain is on a delicate or fancy fabric, such as silk or linen, then take it to the dry cleaners.

Sun cream that doesn't stain clothes

Eucerin products that include the innovative ‘Anti-Stain After Wash’* technology
Eucerin’s ‘Anti-Stain After Wash’ technology helps to reduce the intensity of sunscreen stains after washing

If you’re looking for a sunscreen that doesn't stain clothes, our ‘Anti-Stain After Wash’ technology has been added to the following adult sun protection products:

It is available for children in: 

Learn more about the correct amount of sunscreen to use for adults and children in How much sunscreen to use.

* Helps to reduce the intensity of sunscreen stains after washing

How does Eucerin’s ‘Anti-Stain After Wash’ technology* work?

Eucerin’s ‘Anti-Stain After Wash’ technology helps to reduce the intensity of sunscreen stains after washing, and it does so with no compromise to quality or level of sun protection of the product.

The innovative formula Eucerin’s ‘Anti-Stain After Wash’ technology works in two ways. Firstly, it contains an anti-redeposition agent that prevents so much of the filter from binding with the fabric in the first place. Secondly, it contains a complexing agent that works like a magnet, attracting and binding-in the metal ions in the washing water so they are less able to react with the UV filters and to intensify stains when clothes are washed.

  1. In multiple Beiersdorf AG laboratory tests, in independent tests carried out by textile experts at the Hohenstein Institute and in PiU consumer tests on Eucerin Photoaging Control Sun Cream SPF 50+ and SPF 30, Chile, September 2017.

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